Holiday Ettiquette
April 3, 2012, 8:03 AM
Filed under: etiquette, Life style

1. Don’t invite both members of a divorced or separated couple to a  holiday gathering —  unless you know they’re on good terms. Most people who  split up prefer not to see each other, at least initially. Bringing the two  together could make them — and possibly others — uncomfortable. Instead, plan to  see them separately over the holidays. That will be more time-consuming, but  it’ll be worth the effort if you want to stay friends with both parties.

2.  DON’T get drunk if you’re the hostess. “Hosting is a  responsibility,” cautions Post. “Know your own limits.” Use caution when you’re  the guest a party too, and slow down once you feel yourself rapidly approaching  that point where you think strip beer pong is a good idea. When you feel like  one too many people has asked you, “are you OK?”—it might be time to put down  the wine and grab a glass of water.

If a guest gets drunk at your home, stop serving him alcohol and see  that he gets home safely. Refusing to pour more liquor for an inebriated  guest may be awkward, but it’s necessary. Tell the person in private why you’re  cutting him off. Then ask another guest to take him home. If no one is able to  give him a ride, call a cab for him (and pay for it if need be). Or, simply  provide him with a bed for the night. Never, never, never let a guest drive away  intoxicated. Sure, he may be embarrassed or insulted at the moment, but at least  he’ll be alive in the morning.

3. When Aunt Irma, feeling inventive, brings her cucumber-banana gelatin  mold to Easter dinner, accept graciously (no eye rolling, please). A  good host responds to an unexpected — and perhaps unwelcome — contribution with  aplomb. Thank your aunt and serve her creation with your spread. You might think  cucumber and banana is a disgusting combination — but now’s not the time to tell  her so, and you’d hurt her feelings if you failed to offer it to your  guests.

4. If gift giving with your relatives is getting too expensive, it’s okay to  scale back — as long as you discuss it with them well in advance. Ending  gift escalation is not as hard as you think, if you’re willing to be frank.  Months before the holidays, bring up the idea of alternative giving schemes.  Some options: drawing names, limiting presents to a specific dollar amount,  giving gifts only to kids and not to adults. Others will probably be grateful  that you were brave enough to  start the discussion.

5. When you receive horrible, wrong-size or duplicate gifts, smile, say  something polite, extend a thank-you…and then run for the returns line. A  collector’s plate featuring Yosemite Falls? Really, what was your mother-in-law  thinking? Still, you can probably come up with something appreciative to say:  “This is so thoughtful! You know how much I love the outdoors.” But being  gracious about a gift doesn’t mean you always have to keep it. Yes, if the item  is one of a kind or homemade — like a painting or a knitted scarf — you’re stuck  with it. Otherwise, you can take the item back to the store and exchange it for  something else. And when your friend asks how you like your new hand blender?  Don’t lie. Say, “I love those so much, I already owned one — so I didn’t think  you’d mind if I exchanged it for a food mill. Thanks for making my life in the  kitchen so much easier!”

6. Regift rarely…if ever. You have a surplus of “stuff,” and it  seems like the best way to downsize is to pass things on to other people. Makes  sense. Problem is, if the truth emerges, two loved ones will feel hurt — the  original giver (because you obviously didn’t value her choice) and the recipient  (who thought you’d take the time to find something special just for her). The  basic guidelines for regifting: First, you must be positive that the gift is  something the recipient would love. Second, the item must be brand new and in  its original package. And third, it shouldn’t be something the original giver  took great care to select just for you. An example: Regifting a nice bottle of  Pinot Noir to a wine lover is okay. Regifting a crystal vase your mother brought  you from Bermuda is not.

7. If you’re creating a holiday “newsletter” to send with cards, keep your  readers in mind. Newsletters should be short (a page or less) and sweet.  Keep them upbeat — most people don’t want to hear about your dental surgery. On  the other hand, avoid turning your letter into a brag sheet. Saying, “Sam and I  were lucky enough to visit Europe — at long last!” is low-key and friendly. But  “Sam and I spent a week at a deluxe French spa and were utterly pampered”  screams “Don’t you wish you were us?” Personalize each copy with a handwritten  salutation and always sign your name. Also, be sure you’re sending the  newsletter only to people who are genuinely interested in your family news.

8. When you receive a holiday card from someone you didn’t send one to,  reciprocation is optional. Send if you wish. But beware of turning the  exchange of holiday cards into a table tennis match. Say a card arrives from  your cousin Myron on the seventh day of Hanukkah, and oops, you’d accidentally  forgotten him. Instead of thwacking a card back across the Web — which may seem  perfunctory rather than sincere — wait a few weeks and write him a letter. Or,  call Myron to thank him for such a thoughtful note.

9. In fact, there’s no obligation to send holiday cards at all. Too  stressed? Forgo the tradition this season, but vow to get in touch at another  time of year: Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, first week of fall, etc. You’ll  have more time for writing cards and hopefully won’t view it as such a chore.

10. DON’T leave guests to awkwardly mingle at a party you’re  hosting. “If it’s a crowd that doesn’t know each other, it’s important to give  people something to go on,” says Lizzie Post, etiquette expert and  great-great-granddaughter of manners maven Emily Post. When making  introductions, try to jump-start the conversation—explain where you know each  guest from, or bring up something they have in common, whether it’s the same  alma mater or just an undying love for Celine Dion.

11. DON’T bring an uninvited plus-one to a party unless you’ve  cleared it with the hostess. This includes boyfriends, children, and pets. DO bring a dish or a bottle of wine instead.

12. DON’T forget to match the food you serve to the attire on  your invitation if you’re hosting this year. “If you invite people to a  black-tie,” Post says, “I would consider not having spaghetti at dinner.”

13.  DON’T forget to ask about your guests’ food preferences and  dietary restrictions—and try to make at least one dish they can eat. Not sure  how to make vegan brisket? “Ask!” says Post. “Find out how to make something  from your guest.” The bonus: “the majority of people will almost always offer to  bring a dish.” If you’re the guest, whether you’re keeping Kosher, vegetarian,  or South Beach, bring a dish or two and let the hostess know your situation  beforehand—when you RSVP, not the morning of the party.

14.  DON’T let the party drag on if you’re hosting, and DON’T be the guest that over stays her welcome by four hours.  “Don’t walk up to your guests and take their drinks from their hands,” Post  cautions—if you’re hosting, give guests the hint by cleaning up the bar and  putting away food. Pay attention to those same hints if you’re the guest. If  you’re still chatting away over a freshly poured martini while your host has  changed into pajamas, it’s time to go.

15.  DON’T be a doormat when it comes to having friends or family  stay at your place over the holidays. “Stand up for your own sanity,” Post  advises. If you can’t fit your in-laws and their two Saint Bernards in your  studio apartment, say so. The same goes for guests that have over stayed their  welcome. “The fish and the house guests go bad after three days,” according to  Post. Make it clear before their arrival that you would love to host them  between certain dates, and point them to a hotel for the duration of their stay.




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